Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Star Wars

Released: 2005
Director: George Lucas
Starring: Ewan MacGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen


Great action – shame about the emotion

The iconic scrolling text at the beginning of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith makes it very clear where we are in the Star Wars story.  The first word is stark.  War!  The tensions which have been brewing in the first two films have come to a head and galactic conflict has begun.

The film begins with Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi on a mission to rescue the Chancellor of the Senate, Palpatine, who has been kidnapped by robot General Grievous and Sith Lord Count Dooku.  The movie begins with a bang but displays a recurring fault in that this (in common with all of the action scenes) is a couple of minutes too long.  With a little more judicious editing this film could have been a good fifteen or twenty minutes shorter.

Fearful for the safety of his wife Padme Amidala and their unborn child, Anakin finds himself increasingly drawn to the Dark Side of the Force.  Chancellor Palpatine, who who we now discover is evil, plays on Anakin’s insecurities and growing disillusionment with the Jedi Council to bring him ever closer to the ways of the Sith.  I say that we discover that Palpatine is evil, but did the script and performance ever create any room for doubt?

Hayden Christensen’s acting hasn’t improved in the three years between the making of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.  He’s as wooden as an Ikea furniture showroom.  Ewan MacGregor continues to do well as Obi-Wan Kenobi but once again the best acting in the entire film comes from Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine.

After strong performances in the first two films Natalie Portman is pretty uninspiring here.  She has been transformed into a simpering, weak woman rather than the principled politician and brave warrior we had come to know.  The scenes where she and Christensen share their anxieties, fears and love are clunky and feel terribly out of place in an otherwise great film.

I found Portman’s wardrobe particularly distracting.  At one point she appears in a nightdress which has rows of pearls as sleeves. Instead of concentrating on the emotional dialogue I was thinking of just how uncomfortable that would be, or is it an ancient Naboo cure for snoring?

As with Attack of the Clones, this film comes to life in the battle scenes.  Kenobi’s fight with General Grievous who expertly wields four lightsabers is exciting – as is the climactic duel at the edge of a lava pit.  The best, and most moving, sequence of Revenge of the Sith is when the Jedi Knights come to realise how powerful and controlling the Sith have become.  There is little dialogue but these few short scenes pack an emotional punch with John Williams’ music complementing the action perfectly.

This first trilogy ends on a sombre note.  A new and deadly enemy has risen, the Jedi Order seems powerless to protect the galaxy.  Despite that the final two or three minutes are curiously optimistic.  The score is beautifully evocative here.  There may just be a new hope on the horizon….

Previous and next posts in this series:<< Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the ClonesStar Wars Episode IV: A New Hope >>
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  1. I’m not quite sure which of the three prequels I like the most but I think it is this one. For me, these films take something away from the original films by poorly taking the audience into a back story that, evidently, should have been left to myth. Excellent review Louise, I’m glad you enjoyed it. At least there wasn’t much Jar Jar Binks to contend with.

    • Thanks, I think this is my favourite of the three prequels but there’s a couple of moments in Attack of the Clones that do stand out for me. I’ll be putting all my thoughts together on the entire series in a day or two….

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